The Influence of Eastern and “New Age” Beliefs
by Kyle Campbell
When Americans sit in their different worship services, the chances are that one in five of the people there find “spiritual energy” in mountains or trees, one in four believe in astrology, one in four believe yoga is a “spiritual practice,” and one in six believe in the “evil eye,” that certain people can cast curses with a look. In Catholic churches, chances are that one in five members believe in reincarnation -- something they were never taught in catechism class.
Elements of Eastern faiths and New Age thinking have been widely adopted by 65% of U.S. adults, including many who call themselves Protestants and Catholics, according to a survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released in December. And, according to the survey's other major finding, devotion to one clear faith is fading. In the Old Testament, the Israelites at first did not completely leave God. They first combined the worship of God with the worship of pagan idols. This practice was called “syncretism” (cp. Joshua 24:2), and it appears to be happening again. One example would be pop star Madonna’s mixing of the contradictory belief systems of Catholicism and Jewish Kabbalah. Scott Thumma, a professor at the Hartford Institute for Religion Research in Hartford, Connecticut, said, “Today, the individual rarely finds all their spiritual needs met in one congregation or one religion.” These kinds of trends need to be watched by Christians, for they may represent the next direction our children may follow if we do not boldly and consistently preach what is and is not compatible with the scriptures.
According to Pew’s 2008 U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, 70% said “many religions can lead to eternal life,” and 68% said “there’s more than one true way to interpret the teachings of my religion.” In short, we believe our own experiences are authentic, and no “authority” can say otherwise.
Jim Todhunter, a retired leader of United Church of Christ congregations, said, “That’s a very ‘Eastern’ notion.” He has studied in a Hindu ashram in India and practices Zen meditation and Christian contemplative prayer. “In the Western religions — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — the focus is: ‘What do you believe?’ There is always a tremendous focus on doctrine and teachings,” he says. “In the East, Buddhism and Hinduism in particular, the leading question is, ‘Do you know God?’ It’s much more experience-based.” Either way, he adds, “however you meet God is wonderful.”
The Bible plainly says that man does not get to decide what he believes is true. Psalm 119:160 says, “The entirety of Your word is truth …” God wants us to follow all of the scriptures, not just what part we want or just what we want to do. Jeremiah 10:23-24 says, “O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps. O Lord, correct me, but with judgment; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing.” John the Baptist said, “A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven” (John 3:27). No matter how our society changes and how people alter their beliefs toward Eastern and “New Age” philosophies, the Bible is true and it is never going to change. John 12:48 says, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” The Proverb writer added, “There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand” (Proverbs 19:21).
I fear that some brethren’s reticence to hear good, strong doctrinal lessons on topics such as the nature of God and Christ, why the Bible was written, apologetics, etc., will pay terrible dividends in the form of our children leaving the faith for these false, Eastern “notions.” It is my opinion that we have to get away from thinking that young people only need lessons on moral issues and peer pressure. If you look at gospel meeting announcements and youth lectureship announcements, you will see an abundance of those types of topics (living godly, building good character, picking good friends, overcoming temptation, facing peer pressure, dressing modestly), but virtually none on authority, the church, or how to defend the faith of the scriptures in a skeptical world. It’s not that those aforementioned topics are not important, they are! But we are leaving an enormous hole in their knowledge and subsequently their faith that many of them will walk through, chasing these mystical ideas.
The one bright spot in this report is that people are religiously open. That will provide us an opportunity to show our neighbors why they ought to believe in the Bible, and how it can fully answer all of the great questions of life. We just need to be sure we are adequately prepared (1 Peter 3:15)!
“Glory In Their Shame”
by Kyle Campbell
I was having a good day ... until Facebook reminded me that people are susceptible to the “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16). These are not from the Father, but are from “the world” (v. 17). “The world” is synonymous with walking “according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others” (Ephesians 2:2-3).
This isn’t just an article about Facebook; it can apply to all social media, texts, emails, or any other means of communication, including the spoken word. How you communicate shows something about you. Jesus said, “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matthew 15:18-19). What proceeds out of a man can come from his fingers as well as his mouth.
In Philippians 3:17-19, Paul wrote, “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.).” While Paul wanted all Christians to follow him, sadly this will not be the case. There will be “enemies of the cross of Christ,” and sometimes those enemies are in the Lord’s church. The ultimate end for such persons is “destruction,” i.e. eternal damnation. “Their god is their stomach” suggests people who indulged in unrighteousness without restraint (Romans 16:18; 1 Corinthians 6:13; Jude 11). Notice that the “enemies of the cross of Christ” gloried in their shame. The Contemporary English Version translates the phrase “brag about the disgusting things they do.” The final description characterizes these “enemies of the cross of Christ” as continually minding what is earthly and carnal when they should be focusing on what is heavenly and spiritual (Colossians 3:1-2).
We can see the same attitude now when people blatantly post on social media or send something via text or email that is profane, immodest, or sacrilegious. Not only is it done, but it is done with smiling faces and happy emojis! It is people glorying in their shame! “Shame” in the text of Philippians refers to a person, action, or situation that brings a loss of respect or honor. When people see you in revealing clothes, or read your inappropriate texts or emails, or hear the euphemistic and off-color language you use, it brings a loss of respect or honor to yourself and your Lord. Your life becomes a disgrace to the name you claim to bear. It should be your craving to “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called” (Ephesians 4:1), not soil it with ungodly conduct.
This article is not intended to be harsh or mean. I want nothing more than for you and your conduct to glorify God. I want you to show “forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9). Don’t let yourself have any agreement or participation with anything that even looks like wickedness — on the screen or in real life. Ephesians 5:11-12 says, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.” Your body is your tool to be used for good, and that is why Paul wrote, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). While the “enemies of the cross of Christ” can expect “destruction,” John affirms, “he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 John 2:17). What is the will of God? “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification ...” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). “Be ye holy” (1 Peter 1:16) by watching what you post, say, and do.
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